Dave Says: Teachable moments are valuable at any age

Dear Dave,

A good friend of mine passed away recently. In his will, he left me a couple of items and some money, and I’d like to share the money with my son. He is 25, and a good kid, but he is still impulsive with his finances. Do you have any advice for handling this in a way that will do him the most good?


Dear Frank,

It’s tough enough losing a close friend without having to worry about a grown son with money issues. I’m sorry you’re going through all this.

To be honest, I don’t like the idea of just handing him money when you already know he’s impulsive. I learned a long time ago that handing money to someone who’s financially irresponsible is not a good idea. Lots of people think other folks would be fine, and all their problems would be solved, if they just had more money. That’s not generally the case. You need to ask yourself if giving this young man a bunch of cash would really, truly help him. More than likely, the answer is no.

You obviously love this kid, and you’ve got a generous heart. But under the circumstances, it might be a good idea to attach a few strings to any cash. Don’t make him jump through a bunch of hoops for no reason, though. I’m talking about teachable moment-type things that will help train and educate him to handle his finances in a more responsible and productive way.

There are lots of paths you could take. You might require that he start living on a written, monthly budget, that the two of you go over together for the first few months. Sitting down with a good financial coach—one with the heart of a teacher—is something you might consider throwing out there, as well.

In my mind, this approach is fair to everyone involved. It allows you to help him help himself, instead of just handing him something that may or may not be a blessing.